The area of orchard to be restored is about 20 years old, planted buy volunteers as part of the Warndon Villages housing development. The trees are just entering their truly productive years, but were in need of pruning and rescuing from bramble encroachment.
Local volunteers, with support from Transition Worcester Orchard Workers and Worcester City Council, have made a start to clear the Orchard of the worst bramble and scrub. The Project also has the support of Warndon Parish Council, and we hope to involve more local residents and the nearby Primary School.
Events and task dates
Practical tasks take place on the 3rd Saturday of each month, from 10:00 til 13:00. Meet by the steps on Trotshill Lane East. Tasks will vary with the seasons. All Welcome! Some tasks, e.g. Pruning training, have limited spaces, but for most sessions there is no need to book.
The project so far
The first 2 Maintenance Days took place in August and September 2011. A keen group of volunteers including Orchard Workers and local residents set about cutting back bramble, nettles and blackthorn which were swamping the fruit trees. Now we can see what we're dealing with! We discovered at least 10 apple trees, along with greengages, a mulberry and a couple of veteran pear trees.
On October 8th 2011 we ran an Open Day at the partially cleared Orchard, to introduce local residents to the site and hopefully encourage people to get involved! This was also an Apple Pressing Day, so lots of local residents brought along fruit from their own trees for juicing, while others just came for a nose around. Volunteers pressed and bottled 13 batches of juice, and visitors drank over 80 cups of apple juice!
A pruning training day took place on the 10th December, led by experts from the Transition Worcester Orchard Workers. This was the first time these trees had been pruned so there was plenty to do! The trees needed to be pruned to prevent disease, direct growth and improve the quality of the fruit, so hopefully we'll have a great crop next year. There is a little more pruning left to do at the next volunteer day. We also now have access to the original tree planting list, from 1991, so we know what varieties should be there, but not which is which! We will be able to have a go at identifying the trees from August.
An incredible 16 volunteers got stuck in to the remaining blackthorn on the 4th February, and what a difference they made! The mountain of cuttings they created will be chipped soon, so we'll have room to get at the last bit of scrub at the beginning of March. There were also some ideas put forward for what could be done on the site in the future, including wildflower planting, planting a tree to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, interpretation panels, identifying the fruit varieties, and leaving log piles for invertebrates.
On the 3rd March, the weather was kind to us and we finished off the major clearance and made a couple of log piles for invertebrates. If you haven't made it to the site recently, it's made a huge difference! We'll actually be able to see the blossom when in appears in the next couple of months! Some of our student volunteers also made a good start at mapping the locations of the surviving trees.
On the 21st April, the volunteers tidied the boundary fencing and used wood chip from the site to create a path. They also added a temporary sign at the entrance, so the site is much more welcoming for visitors.
Over the summer, we selected some of the greengages in the centre of the site to be removed, to give the remaining trees more room. Plums and their relatives are pruned in the summer, unlike apples and pears, to reduce the risk of silverleaf fungus attack. We still managed to get a bit of fruit from them though, along with blackberries and mulberries later in the summer.
In September we held our second Open Day, with Apple Pressing and a ladybird quiz trail for children. Although there wasn't much fruit left in the Orchard by this time, several people brought batches for pressing, and volunteers collected some apples from a local pre-school nursery, and Blackpole industrial estate. One volunteer returned to the nursery the next week to demonstrate the apple press, which was very popular with the children - they may be pressing their own juice next year!
The selected greengage trees were removed in October. Some of them were suitable to be replanted, so they will eventually be going to the Duck Brook Community Allotment site, to form part of a fruit-rich hedgerow!
What needs doing?
This depends on the interests of the local volunteers. The project includes practical maintenance days, with pruning training, tidying and improving access to the Orchard, picking and juicing days. Some People may wish to identify the varieties of fruit present, or find out about the history of Orchards in the Trotshill and wider Warndon Villages area. Ideas from the volunteers include:
- Orchard Maintenance tasks eg pruning, clearing.
- Wildflower identification, Wildflower planting
- Eventual permanent Notice board with varieties and ripening times, do's and don'ts
- Identify fruit varieties – a series of days over the season from August to November. 3 fruit needed, from top, middle and bottom of the tree, with a leaf. We hope to invite an expert to help out.
- Use streamers/ ribbons to mark which trees have ripe fruit ready for picking. Volunteers will visit regularly over the picking season.
- Consider planting soft fruit if suitable